I’ve never been the type of person to ask for help. I honestly don’t know how to. Even though I love helping out others whenever I can, I just assume others are too busy with their own issues so I prefer not to bother them. I never sat in the front row of classrooms. I’ve never had that ‘one’ professor that had a profound impact on me. I was never too engaged with school to begin with. It’s not like I never had anyone that I could turn to, but I generally try to figure things out on my own.
In the clothing industry, there are the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. The brands that have ‘made it’ have owners that know one another and share a mutual respect. Being in the streetwear industry for 7 years, I’ve come across some pretty well known brand owners, however I never seized that opportunity to forge a relationship. It’s very easy to run into knowledgable people just by attending tradeshows like Agenda or Project. After parties give you an opportunity to meet people on a casual level. However I never used this to my advantage. Now I realize why I never really approached anybody for advice. I didn’t know what questions to ask. With my first brand, if someone were to ask me what my goal was, it would be to get my brand into as many stores as possible. Not only is this a meaningless goal, it is the wrong mindset. Perhaps if I approached an owner of a successful brand and told him about my goal, they would set me straight.
Being young and hungry, I lost sight as to why I jumped into this industry in the first place. I forgot about what it felt like to wear something I loved. I forgot how to appreciate well designed apparel. It’s easy to be desensitized when you’re constantly exposed to clothing, printshops and factories. It becomes a job. Once it becomes a job, you stop appreciating the little things. So a few years later I found that passion again. The interesting thing is I learned more about business when my line was struggling than when we were having success. The struggles are what make you analyze your product, business, and strategy. Struggling forces you to question yourself and your decisions. I really had to dig deep and figure out what went wrong.
With my new brand, I have a new set of rules. I promised myself never to lose sight of why I’m in this business in the first place. I will appreciate the small things. I will make sure that I am proud of every piece that I make. I thought I had everything all figured out. I prepared a business plan, developed a budget, pinpointed my demographic, met with Japanese textile mills, finalized designs and fits with my factory in LA. Everything was going according to plan. I finally locked down a launch date for my new company and I am stoked. I am completely locked in, once again doing things on my own(my brother is my business partner, so not actually alone but you know what I mean) without reaching out to anyone for advice. However, I soon learned that no matter what you think you know, there is always somebody that knows a lot more than you.
I recently met up with a friend to have lunch, we went to Bludso’s on La Brea, a little south of Melrose. On a side note, for those of you who live in LA, if you want good smoked brisket, you have to go there. After we finished he asked if I would come with him to see his cousin, I said sure since my afternoon schedule was open. We went over to his cousin’s boutique in Beverly Hills. He is a bespoke dressmaker for celebrities. When we walked in, he was frantically trying to finish a dress for a client in the back of the boutique where he had a sewing room. The room was full of racks, fabric, unfinished dresses and random clutter. He took a break from sewing to talk to my friend and introduce himself. After a brief introduction, typically he asked me what I do for work. I gave a basic response, ‘I work in the clothing industry’. He wanted me to be more specific so I gave him an overview of what I’m currently working on. I told him about my plan to sell online and keep my brand direct to consumer. He frowned at some of the things I said but waited to hear me out before he gave his feedback. After hearing me out, he responded with ‘why should I care?’. I didn’t really know how to answer so I gave him a perplexed look. He repeated himself again, this time more slowly. ‘Why.Should.I.Care.’. He than explained that he constantly asked himself that question when he was trying to grow his business. He explained that what drives fashion is the intimacy. The only way to sell clothing online or anywhere for that matter, is for other’s to care about your message and what you stand for. In my previous posts, I would always mention consistency of branding and knowing your customer. My focus has been more on my brand itself and everything internal. His words got me thinking more about the human element instead of always trying to reduce everything to a science. After a 30 minute conversation, he had to leave to deliver a dress so we exchanged information and parted ways. I thought it was an interesting interaction especially considering that I wasn’t expecting to learn much from someone who designs women’s dresses.
A couple days later, I received a call from him again. Following up to see what my thoughts were on our conversation. I told him that I was surprised to learn that I could apply a lot of what he knows to what I’m trying to accomplish. He mentioned that he had another boutique location that was vacant that he would allow me to use for a trunk show or a launch party. He also mentioned that I should keep him updated on my collection and that he is always available for questions if I had any. I was appreciative of this. What I learned the most from this encounter, was that there are a lot of people that are willing to help you and that there is nothing wrong with reaching out for some advice. I wasn’t even looking for any guidance and I’m grateful that this individual was gracious enough to care.